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49 “Only the tribe of Levi[a] you must not number[b] or count[c] with[d] the other Israelites. 50 But appoint[e] the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony,[f] over all its furnishings and over everything in it. They must carry[g] the tabernacle and all its furnishings; and they[h] must attend to it and camp around it.[i] 51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move,[j] the Levites must take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be reassembled,[k] the Levites must set it up.[l] Any unauthorized person[m] who approaches it must be killed.

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  1. Numbers 1:49 sn From the time the Law was given, the priesthood was the prerogative of the tribe of Levi. There were, however, members of other tribes who served as priests from time to time (see Judg 17:5).
  2. Numbers 1:49 tn The construction has literally, “only the tribe of Levi you shall not number.” The Greek text rendered the particle אַךְ (ʾakh) forcefully with “see to it that” or “take care that.” For the uses of this form, see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 65, §388-89.
  3. Numbers 1:49 tn Heb “lift up their head.”
  4. Numbers 1:49 tn Heb “in the midst of the sons of Israel.”
  5. Numbers 1:50 tn The same verb translated “number” (פָּקַד, paqad) is now used to mean “appoint” (הַפְקֵד, hafqed), which focuses more on the purpose of the verbal action of numbering people. Here the idea is that the Levites were appointed to take care of the tabernacle. On the use of this verb with the Levites’ appointment, see M. Gertner, “The Masorah and the Levites,” VT 10 (1960): 252.
  6. Numbers 1:50 tn The Hebrew name used here is מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת (mishkan haʿedut). The tabernacle or dwelling place of the Lord was given this name because it was here that the tablets of the Law were kept. The whole shrine was therefore a reminder (הָעֵדוּת, a “warning sign” or “testimony”) of the stipulations of the covenant. For the ancient Near Eastern customs of storing the code in the sanctuaries, see M. G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King, 14-19, and idem, The Structure of Biblical Authority, 35-36. Other items were in the ark in the beginning, but by the days of Solomon only the tablets were there (1 Kgs 8:9).
  7. Numbers 1:50 tn The imperfect tense here is an obligatory imperfect telling that they are bound to do this since they are appointed for this specific task.
  8. Numbers 1:50 tn The addition of the pronoun before the verb is emphatic—they are the ones who are to attend to the tabernacle. The verb used is שָׁרַת (sharat) in the Piel, indicating that they are to serve, minister to, attend to all the details about this shrine.
  9. Numbers 1:50 tn Heb “the tabernacle.” The pronoun (“it”) was used in the translation here for stylistic reasons.
  10. Numbers 1:51 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct with the temporal preposition; the “tabernacle” is then the following genitive. Literally it is “and in the moving of the tabernacle,” meaning, “when the tabernacle is supposed to be moved,” i.e., when people are supposed to move it. The verb נָסָע (nasaʿ) means “pull up the tent pegs and move,” or more simply, “journey.”
  11. Numbers 1:51 tn Here we have the parallel construction using the infinitive construct in a temporal adverbial clause.
  12. Numbers 1:51 tn Heb “raise it up.”
  13. Numbers 1:51 tn The word used here is זָר (zar), normally translated “stranger” or “outsider.” It is most often used for a foreigner, an outsider, who does not belong in Israel, or who, although allowed in the land, may be viewed with suspicion. But here it seems to include even Israelites other than the tribe of Levi.